Although Tolstoy is best known for his mammoth novels, it’s his short stories that are my favourites. The man was a master at condensing a hotbed of emotional drama, complex family relationships and pan-generational drama into the most beautifully wrought, succinct little tales.
That’s because he had clearly mapped out what he needed to say before he started, and kept pruning and polishing, and adding essential details, until every bit of the story was just right.
When it comes to storytelling – whether the subject matter is picking apples in the Russian countryside or the opening of a new hotel – what keeps the reader gripped is not just a good yarn, but the writing and detail in it. Writing that make you feel as if you’ve been there, that you know what a space sounds like, feels like, and what sorts of characters inhabit it – all within a very short space of time.
So often, I get sent long-winded releases – hundreds of words long – that are about as interesting to read as a phone book. “The rooms are 80 square feet” they proudly state. “Every room is fitted with a safe, spacious shower and complimentary water.” And without fail, there’s a quote from some man in a grey suit – no doubt copied and pasted from another press release, with the name of the new hotel inserted – explaining just how proud he is of his brand’s expansion into a new market.
None of which will inspires me to read further – never mind to go to the hotel.
When writing a press release about a new restaurant/hotel/destination, please remember: I want to know what it feels like to be there; to know what sorts of characters inhabit it. I want to understand what it smells like, sounds like, looks like. What makes it unique. Ultimately, the little things that will make me want to turn it into a story.
I’m not asking for War and Peace. Just a few lovely vignettes that will transport my mind there – and inspire me to one day take my body there, too.